Mission Center: Mission Leadership

Miguelina Espinal

(The Rev.) Miguelina Espinal

» 32 years old
» Associate Program Officer for Young Adult Ministry
» Province IX
» Ordained Priest (Diocese of the Dominican Republic)

Miguelina describes herself as a cradle Episcopalian, and one that has been quite involved and active in the Church since a very early age. She recalls a time when she was eight years old, and serving as an acolyte. She laughingly describes how she sat in a corner with the Book of Common Prayer, trying to celebrate the Eucharist by herself before the priest showed up. He did show up and caught her, but this moment etched itself into her memory; she had no idea at the time that women could be ordained in the church. Many years later, when she was fifteen, Miguelina saw a female priest celebrating the Eucharist for the first time, and immediately thought, “that’s it!” She was immediately brought back to that day in the sacristy when she was eight. After that, she says, things just started to happen one after another.

As a youth in the church, Miguelina participated in the Diocese of Dominican Republic summer camps and youth events.  The opportunity to serve at the camp and conference center in the north of the island was a transformative experience for her. The camp itself, she describes as the Garden of Eden for the children of the community. In a community where many of the children came from dysfunctional families, or single mothers, or families with economic struggles, this camp provided a place for the children to gather, feel loved and feel safe.  “I felt used by God. It was the greatest experience I ever had.” Being at the camp and seeing the contrast between the camp and the community helped her to realize the blessings in her life, and inspired her to help others. She was able to share with the children that there were people who grew up just as they did, and were able to go to school and have opportunities. She describes it as “giving what was in my heart to those who are looking for hope.”

The Episcopal Church Miguelina grew up in is a church that takes a very individual approach. “A shepherd knows the names of all their sheep. That’s how we are in the church. We aren’t just numbers and faces that show up to church.” In her formation as an Episcopalian, this approach to ministry and to being church made all the difference, giving her the support and community she needed to develop as a leader. “We are a family church” she says about the Episcopal Church, “that’s what makes us special.” As a young adult leader, she has sees herself as bringing life, joy, creativity, uniqueness and color to the church. “We want to make things happen,” she says of young adults, “we share our passion, and it’s contagious.”

Laughing, Miguelina shared that she used to be so quiet and shy. “The institution groomed me to be a leader,” she said, “my rector encouraged me to be out there!” Since the age of fourteen, she has been out there indeed, taking on leadership positions first in the parish level, then in the diocesan youth committee, as provincial structure coordinator, executive council member, general convention helper, and now an associate program officer for young adult ministry in The Episcopal Church Center. She sees people in her life as having played an instrumental role in her life and ministry. “God used them to do that,” she said.

Miguelina was ordained to the diaconate in 2002 and the priesthood in 2003 in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. Being a young woman whose first language is not English, Miguelina sees herself has having an opportunity to serve the wider church, and in doing so to be a sign of hope and a sign of openness and growth in the wider church. She hopes that through her ministry, minority populations will see that they can relate to The Episcopal Church, and that they will be able to see hope in the structure and work of the Church. Miguelina continues to acknowledge how blessed she is to be doing this work, “After eight years I’m still in the honeymoon phase!”

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